Nothing fires up Americans more than guns and religion. A lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania by an Amish man involves both.
According to the suit, Andrew Hertzler of Lancaster County filed a federal suit last week because he wants to buy a gun, but isn’t allowed to do so without the required photo ID. And there’s the problem—getting his photograph taken for the ID would violate his religious beliefs.
According to this story from the Washington Post, Hertzler’s “parents, grandparents, and siblings are all active and practicing Amish,” and Hertzler “has a sincerely held religious belief that prevents him from knowingly and willingly having his photograph taken and stored.”
“The Amish faith prohibits an individual from having his/her photograph taken,” the suit states. “This belief stems from the Biblical passage Exodus 20:4, which mandates that ‘You shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,’ as well as the Christian belief in humility.”
Herztler tired to buy a gun from a Pennsylvania gun shop in June. The dealer wouldn’t complete the sale with Hertzler’s non-photo, state ID card.
He took up the issue with his senator, Republican Pat Toomey, who forwarded the issue along to the BATFE, but received an unyielding reply.
“As the enclosed response (from the ATF) states, Federal firearm laws require photo identification when purchasing a firearm,” Toomey wrote, according to the Post. “There are no exceptions to this federal requirement.”
“Mr. Hertzler confronts Hobson’s choice: either forego his constitutional right to keep and bear arms in defense of himself and his home, or violate his religion,” the suit states. “The exercise of one Constitutional right cannot be contingent upon the violation or waiver of another.”
Hertzler’s situation isn’t completely unique. The story points to other instances of Amish gun owners challenging requirements for photo IDs, such as this occurence in Illinois from 2011.
The Post story says that, while the Supreme Court has not ruled on photo identification religious exemptions for such purposes as drivers’ licenses and voter ID, lower courts usually have “been willing to recognize photo identification as a compelling purpose” that’s more important than religious claims, according to a Congressional Research Service study on the issue.
This story from news.sky.com points out that someone else can’t buy a gun for Hertzler, because it would violate federal “straw purchase” laws.